Nine years ago we moved to Herefordshire from Gloucestershire, where lovely Jilly Cooper was a neighbour. There is less bedhopping here in the Marches, fewer rakes such as Jilly’s character Rupert Campbell-Blacks. Recently, however, we learned that a married friend here was having an affair, bonking away in the marital home like a bonobo monkey. What should we do? Sometime matinee idol Hugh Grant would tell us to mind our own business. Broadsheet columnist Joan Smith on Monday assured the Leveson Inquiry that 21st-century Britain is laid back about marital collapse. Speak for yourself, Joan. I take the view that marriage is a public estate, declarations of love being exchanged in front of the community. It is factually incorrect to say that marriage is completely private. The Grant/Smith argument is rooted in selfish egalitarianism (not as oxymoronic as it might sound). My wife and I are troubled by this adultery in our circle. The cuckolded spouse does not know. We feel disloyal watching the poor soul go about the place. Should we discuss the scandal with other friends? Should we burden our vicar with the saga? Were there a privacy law, would we even be permitted to do so?
Although instructed almost daily by certain newspaper columnists to hate David Cameron, I cannot yet do so. Of the five prime ministers I have seen in the Commons, Cameron is the least irritating. Thatcher was astonishing but clearly impossible. Major was Pooterishly procedural, Blair palpably fake, Brown off the wall. Cameron approaches the House in a spirit of joshing cooperation, except when ignoring Ed Miliband. Fleet Street’s walruses loathe our hero none the less. Cameron has fewer press allies than Neil Kinnock had in 1990. Anti-Cameronism boils in the leader-writing cabins like pots of goat-glue on Lucifer’s stoves. It is partly generational, partly lookist: Cameron is a good-looking swine and this makes the ageing gargoyles of Grub Street liverish. Perhaps it is suppressed homoerotic frustration. If only David, back in the days he dined with them, had told these goblins how wonderful they were. As it is, the treatment he receives is on a par with that dished out to opera singer Katherine Jenkins by her civil-servant-spinster internet stalker.
The latest anti-Cameron riff is that DC is rude. But what about the Deputy Prime Minister? Liam Fox, since resigning, has received messages of sympathy from across the Tory and Labour parties. From Liberal Democrat ministers he has received just one note of consolation (from the Foreign
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Office’s Jeremy Browne). From Nick Clegg: not a sausage. If Chris Huhne goes, Cleggy may be equally stoical in his grief.
Boris Johnson ditched the London Assembly’s propaganda sheet when he became mayor. Here in Tory Herefordshire we still shell out for Herefordshire Matters, produced at vast expense by the local NHS and the county council. Its latest issue contains stuff about domestic violence, three photographs of the council’s leader, John Jarvis, and an exhortation to drink tapwater when visiting the county’s pubs (‘don’t be afraid to ask’). Herefordshire Matters recently asked its c. 100,000 readers what they thought of the publication. Only 200 replied. Of those, a third said it was rubbish. That leaves about 140 who really enjoy it. Would it not be cheaper for Cllr Jarvis simply to write them letters?
In our prayers today let us remember the people of Croatia, whose government is still plotting to take them in to the European Union. All aboard the Titanic. Marjan Bosnjak is Croatia’s answer to Bill Cash (actually that’s unkind, make it Nigel Farage). ‘We have a population of only 4.3 million,’ he says. Planning permits have been sought for residential developments in Croatia capable of housing an additional 5.7 million people in the next decade. ‘The numbers are mindboggling. We risk becoming a German colony.’ Don’t we all, dear?
An embarrassed cough from the features desk of the Daily Mail as they ask: ‘This government whip in the Lords you mention in your column — are you sure about her name?’ The whip in question is Sue Garden, a Liberal Democrat. ‘What about her?’ I say. It is explained to me, gently, that ‘lady garden’ is a euphemism. My copy is duly altered to read ‘Baroness Garden of Frognall’. Poor love. To be both a Lib Dem and a synonym for pubes. That’s hard.
Quentin Letts is the parliamentary sketch-writer of the Daily Mail.
the spectator | 26 November 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk spec_mavros_125x59_11-2011.indd 2